The CBI is called in when a woman's body is found in a park. Her throat had been slit and stones were placed over her eyes. It seems to be the work of a burgeoning serial murderer known as the San Joaquin Killer. With Jane late to the scene because of a flat tire, he talks Lisbon through the investigation over the phone, and he tells her to go with her gut instincts. Her instincts point to a man named Richard Haibach as the most likely suspect.
Meanwhile Jane runs into Karen Cross again, who is interviewing a self-proclaimed expert on the San Joaquin Killer, James Panzer. Panzer has been studying the serial killer extensively and seems to carry a lot of admiration for him. Karen thinks that the San Joaquin Killer case is the perfect stepping stone for Jane to get back on her show with Panzer.
As Jane gets to know Panzer, the rest of the CBI team continue to investigate Haibach. Warrant in hand, they enter the man's home and discover a dark room plastered with many pictures of young women. Haibach panics and tries to burn a few photos in the fireplace. However, a perusal through the photos shows that none of them were victims of the serial killer. Haibach is a voyeur, not a serial murderer.
Panzer tells Jane that his interest in the SJ Killer is purely academic. He doesn't have a personal stake, like Jane does with Red John. Jane suspects that Panzer might not just be a fan of the SJ Killer; he might be the SJ Killer.
Another victim is found, but this time her eyes were completely plucked out. It seems like the SJ Killer has gotten bolder and Jane is now convinced that it's Panzer. He tries to rile Panzer up by saying the SJ Killer is stupid and unimaginative, not worthy of being in the same league as Red John. Jane attempts to reveal the SJ Killer's identity by trailing Panzer, but Panzer is one step ahead of Jane.
Jane goes on Karen's show and continues to bait Panzer by insulting the SJ Killer and saying that he doesn't hold a candle to Red John. This causes Panzer to snap and insult Red John, practically daring him to come after Panzer. Later, Panzer's body is found, the latest victim of Red John.